Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A chat with Debasmita Dasgupta about children's books, art and My Father illustrations

I’ve always loved exchanging ideas with interesting people. So, I decided to translate that into a series of blog posts, where you get an insight into the lives and work of some of the people who inspire me. I hope that they inspire you too.

I’d like to introduce you to Debasmita Dasgupta, who is a media manager by profession and an illustrator/artist by passion. Her “My Father” illustrations made ripples across the world with their beautiful combination of poignant artwork and real-life messages.  Debasmita has also illustrated two children’s books and her dedication to her sketchbook has got me scrabbling for my drawing book and the curly-haired girl that I paint.

So, here’s my tete-a-tete with Debasmita.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your love for art.

I am from a middle class family in south Calcutta.  Being the only child, I had a very close bond with my parents, especially my father who always inspired me to swim against the current. My father is a theatre actor & director. Sometimes I used to accompany him to his rehearsals and get completely bowled over seeing him bring together actors, orchestrate them to create art with a strong social message. That somehow became the foundation of my artistic existence and inspired me to find my purpose as an artist. Thus began an urge do something meaningful with my education, my art, my resources and surroundings.

Will you please tell us about the ‘My Father illustrations’ project – how you conceptualized it, what was the first illustration for it and how it grew?

It was on a Sunday afternoon when the idea came to me after I heard a TED talk by Shabana Basij from Afghanistan. It was a moving experience. I felt something had permanently changed inside me. Over the next few days, I watched that talk over and over. Her honesty, her simplicity and power of narration moved me. Shabana grew up in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. Despite all odds, her father never lost the courage to fight for her education. He used to say, “People can take away everything from you except your knowledge”.

Shabana’s story gave me a strong impulse to do something but I didn’t know ‘what’ and ‘how’. That’s when my red sketchbook and pencil caught my eye. Before I’d even realized it, I had taken my first step. I illustrated Shabana’s story and posted it on Facebook. It was an impulsive reaction. I found Shabana’s contact and shared the illustration with her. Shabana was so touched that she forwarded it to her students, and then I started getting emails from a lot of other Afghan men! The emails were a note of thanks as they felt someone was trying to showcase Afghan men in a positive light.

I realized that if there are so many positive father–daughter stories in Afghanistan, just imagine the positive stories across the world! My journey had started. I started looking for moving father-daughter stories from across the globe. Some I found, some found me. With every discovery, my desire to create art for people kept growing.

Started in 2013, ‘My Father illustrations' is all about sharing the positive father–daughter stories with the rest of the world. Through this project, I want to encourage fathers to fight for the rights of their daughters. Every story is special and needs to be told. I look for ordinary people with stories to tell because celebrity stories are still available for people to find, but these ordinary stories are mostly “unheard” of.

Till date I have shared over 150 stories from 37 countries through “My Father illustrations” Facebook page.

You recently published a children’s story book. What was the experience like (from sending your first query to publication)?

Actually my first book, “The Friday Fair”, was published by KATHA in 2010. However every book is special and creating every illustration is a wonderful experience. That’s what makes me feel delighted to share with you my latest children book illustrations for PRATHAM.

The story “Avani and the Pea Plant” is written by very talented ShruthiRao and I enjoyed visualizing and drawing every bit of it. One good thing about having your workfolio online is that sometimes you receive beautiful surprises in your inbox. One such surprise was an email from PRATHAM inviting me to illustrate “Avani and the Pea Plant”. And that’s how we started working together. The book is currently on sale at PRATHAM’s bookstore.

What would you like to say to those of us (like me!) who love to draw children’s book characters in our drawing books (closet illustrators) but are hesitant to take our pictures out into the world?

Just create and share! Do not think whether your art is good or bad, whether people will like it or not. If you love to create, there will be enough good hearts to appreciate your love.

I hope you enjoyed this little chat with Debasmita. You can find out more about her at her blog:

You can buy her latest children's book at the Pratham store.

And if you like, you can join our blog tribe at our Facebook page.

#childrensbooks #art #illustrator 

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